The Cowboy’s Summer Love
by Shanna Hatfield
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Books by Shanna Hatfield
Grass Valley Cowboys Series
The Cowboy’s Christmas Plan
The Cowboy’s Spring Romance
The Cowboy’s Summer Love
QR Code Killer
The Women of Tenacity Series
The Women of Tenacity - A Prelude
Heart of Clay
Country Boy vs. City Girl
Not His Type
Savvy Holiday Entertaining
Savvy Spring Entertaining
Savvy Summer Entertaining
To our military men and women, past and present -
Thank you for your service and sacrifice,
for keeping us safe,
and protecting our freedom.
First love is only a little foolishness
and a lot of curiosity.
George Bernard Shaw
"Do we have to take her, Mama? She's a girl!" Travis Thompson protested to his mother. "She's got cooties and everything!"
"I'm fully aware that Tess is a girl, baby, and yes, you do have to take her along." Denni Thompson ran a hand over the mussed sandy brown hair of her youngest son's head and smiled. “I promise you won’t get cooties from her.”
“But Mama,” Travis said, grasping Denni’s hand in his own and tugging on her fingers. “Please don’t make us take her. She’ll mess up everything.”
“Yeah, Mom, we were going to play war at the fort. How can we do that with a girl?” Trent asked as he sat on a barstool at the kitchen counter drinking a glass of milk.
“I’m sure you’ll figure something out. I want all three of you to be nice to Tess,” Denni said, glancing at Trey, the oldest of her three rambunctious boys. “Promise?”
“We promise,” Trey said, turning his intense, bright blue gaze to his youngest brother. “We don’t have to like it, but we promise.”
“That’s my good boys,” Denni said, giving each one of them a hug. She was filling a backpack with cookies and juice boxes when she heard a car door slam and pounding at the back door. Following her boys through the kitchen and mudroom, she waved a hand at Michele Morgan as she drove back down the driveway. They occasionally took turns babysitting each other’s three children, offering a welcome break from motherhood duties. This afternoon was Denni’s turn and she thought the weather was much too nice for the kids to stay inside.
She smiled as the two Morgan boys ran up to her three offspring. They generally played well together, especially since Ben and Trent were both nine and Brice and Travis were both six. Sweet little Tess stood watching the boys rough house before she saw Denni at the door and ran over to see her.
“Hi, Mrs. Thompson,” Tess said, handing Denni a droopy daisy in her plump little hand.
“Hello, Tess! Thank you for this beautiful flower. How did you know I like daisies?” Denni said, hugging the 7-year-old and breathing in the scent of little girl.
“Everyone likes daisies, don’t they?” Tess asked, looking at Denni with big brown eyes and dark brown pigtails tied with pink ribbons. She wore denim shorts with a ruffled pink shirt and canvas sneakers that were at one time white. Sandwiched between her two rowdy brothers, Tess had a hard time balancing her preferences for baby dolls and tea parties with her desire to be part of their action.
“You know, I think they do,” Denni said with a warm smile. “Are you ready to go have fun with the boys?”
“I guess so,” Tess said, warily eyeing the five boys scuffling around the yard. “They aren’t going to tackle me are they?”
“Absolutely not! If they even think about it, you come tell me,” Denni said, trying to keep the smile off her face. She somehow thought Tess could hold her own if any of the boys did bother her. Stepping into the kitchen, Denni grabbed the backpack of snacks and called to Trey. Running over, he grasped the straps of the bag in his hand and whistled to the other boys.
“Come on, let’s go!” They all took off running, leaving little Tess behind.
“Well, sugarplum, if you are going to go play, you better hurry to catch up.” Denni turned Tess in the direction of the boys and gave her a little nudge.
“Okay,” Tess said and took off after the boys, her stout little legs pumping hard.
“Trey, don’t forget Tess,” Denni called to her eldest. He stopped and waited for the little girl with a look of begrudging acceptance on his young face. When Tess approached him, he smiled down at her and took her hand, then resumed running after the younger boys.
Racing down the path behind the barn, Trey led his band of young followers toward their fort. Trey, Trent and Travis spent many an afternoon there, playing war or cowboys and Indians. Not a throw-together project of little boys, their fort was a solid play room located in a stand of trees near the creek that ran through the Triple T Ranch. Built to last, Drew Thompson constructed the fort for his boys like he did everything – with purpose and love. Properly cared for, the fort would stand as a place for youngsters to play when his grandchildren had children.
Nearing the fort, Trey let go of Tess’s hand and stood barring the door.
“Men of Fort Thompson, we need to make an amendment to the fort rules today,” Trey intoned, pulling himself up to his full height and trying to sound official. “We have a no-girls rule in place. Since Tess is a guest, we need to amend our rule to say no girls are allowed with the exception of Tess. All in favor?”
Trent raised his hand while Travis scrubbed the scuffed toe of his sneaker in the dirt.
“Travis,” Trey prompted and Travis finally stuck his little hand part way up with great reluctance. He was still convinced he was going to go home with a bad case of girl cooties.
“Before she can join us inside, we need to have an initiation,” Trey said, opening the door and setting the backpack inside on the table.
“What’s a ination?” Brice asked. He was all for making his sister squirm, but he didn’t want anyone to hurt her. “You won’t make her cry will you?”
“No,” Trey said, shaking his head with 12-year-old superiority. “An initiation means she has to do something to prove she is worthy to be allowed in our fort or go through a ceremony.”
The boys were quiet for just moment then Ben’s face lit with a smile. “I know. We could pretend she’s getting married to somebody, like a wedding ceremony, then she could be allowed into the fort, right?”
“Sure,” Trey said, warming to the idea. “Travis, you kiss her.”
“No way!” Travis yelled, ramming a fist into his older brother’s arm. “I ain’t gonna do it.”
Trey grabbed Travis and held his arms down before he could punch him again.
“I won’t kiss him!” Tess exclaimed, not liking what the boys had planned. If they didn’t straighten up and be quick about it, she was going to march right back to the house and tell Mrs. Thompson.
“Yes you will and you’ll like it,” Ben said, grabbing Tess’s hand and dragging her toward Travis, who was being pushed along by Trey.
“You can’t make me!”
“I won’t do it!”
“Get away from me!”
Finally, Trey said the magic words that would make Travis cooperate, which, in turn, would get Tess to go along with the scheme.
“Travis, we dare you,” Trey said, bending down so he was eye to eye with his baby brother.
Travis stopped yelling and glared at Trey, then Trent.
“Double dare you,” Trent said, knowing Travis wouldn’t back down now. He and Trey learned the easiest way to get their brother to do what they wanted was to dare him. Even at the tender age of six, if he was dared, he forged ahead without a thought to the consequences.
Travis stood staring at the little girl who glared back at him with big brown eyes and a questioning look on her face. She was kind of cute, for a girl, and she was his best friend’s sister. Sometimes, she was even fun to play with.
“Okay,” Travis said, stepping closer to Tess, who took a huge step back into Ben.
“I’m not kissing him,” Tess said, crossing her arms across her chest. “Not unless you do this right.”
“How do we do it right?” Brice asked, taking his sister’s hand in his. He wasn’t sure this game was a good idea. He thought they should skip the kissing part and get down to the business of playing war. That sounded like a much better plan.
“I need flowers and a crown first,” Tess said, looking down her pert nose at the boys.
“You heard the lady, a crown and some flowers,” Trey said, as they started plucking wildflowers and weeds. Ben poked straggly stems into Tess’s pigtails and Travis, who was resigned to doing the kissing honors, handed her a bedraggled bouquet.
“Now can we get on with this?” Trent asked, anxious to begin their game of war.